Boling's recommendations among seven shows seen the week of 31 October 2005.
We have a plethora of riches in town right now - three of these shows drew five-star notices from me on SeattlePerforms.com, almost as many as I have posted in the entire year until now.
Thursday 3 November 2005: Romeo and Juliet at Seattle Shakespeare Company
This is my seventh live R+J, and the best. It is slightly non-traditional, in that the epilogue is moved to the top of the play and interleaved with the chorus, but nobody is going to be surprised to learn early that the lovers do not survive to the final curtain. And having that curtain come immediately after the ensconcement of Romeo's dagger in its ultimate sheath ends the action at a moment of high emotion - a good result for me. The checkmarks flew almost as furiously as the fights, awarded to: John Langs for direction; Gordon Carpenter for fight choreography (don't try that at home!); Mark Chamberlain (Lord Capulet); Garlyn Punao (Tybalt); Erica Bradshaw (Nurse); and Hans Altwies (Mercutio). Double checks to Lathrop Walker as Romeo, and triple checks to Dana Powers Acheson as Juliet. Honorable mentions go to Susanna Burney as Lady Capulet, Ian Merrigan as Benvolio, and Allan Michael Barlow as Friar Lawrence. And there are nine more players, none of whom embarrassed themselves. Put this on your must-see list.
Friday 4 November 2005: Seattle Opera Young Artists in Performance (Auburn Riverside HS)
What a fun evening. Six of the twelve participants in this year's YAP came down to Auburn to give a recital of over twenty scenes and arias ranging from La Perichole to Trouble in Tahiti. The pieces were integrated nicely (you did not have a feeling that they were working down a list), under Peter Kazaras' direction. Of the six singers, five earned a checkmark at some point in the evening (usually more than one, and coloratura soprano Alexis Martin got three, together with whoops and hollers from the audience). Checkmark also to accompanist Elizabeth Moore. I had the impression early that tenor Ted Schmitz was a better actor than singer, but his voice opened up nicely later in the program and he got two checkmarks. Mezzo Lucia Cervoni was hilarious as a tipsy diner, and also impressive as a jaded movie-goer in Tahiti. Martin brought down the house as Lucia, learning that her lover had (allegedly) betrayed her, but she also had her way with Bellini, and of all composers, Smetana. Baritone Jeremy Kelly shone as Lucia's brother and as a mining magnate in The Ballad of Baby Doe. Soprano Anya Matanovic's Baby Doe stimulated Kelly's response. Only contralto Teresa Herold failed to connect with me. She sang well and acted with conviction, but her voice was not very pretty tonight.
The YAP is continuing to give recitals all around the region. See the Seattle Opera web site for other locations and dates. I heard an ad on KING-FM tonight for a performance at the Kirkland PAC next weekend. If opera is not usually your cuppa, try these folks out - they will tickle your funnybone, in addition to impressing you with their showmanship. And there is not a bit of Wagner in the program.
Saturday 5 November 2005: The Ugly Duckling, StoryBook Theater at the IKEA PAC, Renton HS
This is a kids' musical by a company based in Kirkland that also travels around to Puget Sound communities. It is adapted and directed by Lani Brockman, with music and lyrics by Susan Bardsley (who also plays keyboard for the shows). The story, music, songs, costumes, and acting are all engaging and had the full attention of the many kids in the audience. An extensive question and answer session followed. Checkmark to the company. Watch for these folks to come to your neighborhood (see their schedule on SeattlePerforms.com).
Saturday 5 November 2005: The Memory of Water, Atlas Theatre at Live Girls (Ballard)
Here is another of those pieces billed as a comedy that is anything but (it won an Olivier Award as a comedy, for heaven's sake). Yes, it has some laughs (in fact, a lot of laughs), but it is a family drama with many un-humorous events and relationships.
Three sisters are gathered to bury their mother. Along for the ride are the husband of one and boyfriend of another. And Momma herself shows up a few times. I heard a comment on the way out about the playwright having left a few things on the table; I did not feel that the situation at the end left me unsatisfied. Yes, some things were not resolved - that's life.
The acting is superb. Checkmarks to Erica Stoddard (one sister) and Aaron Odom (the boyfriend). Double checks to Maggie DiGiovanni and Christine White (the other sisters). Honorable mention to Philip Clarke (the husband). Checkmark also to Chris Mayse for direction. Lisa Viertel plays Mom, a rather small part for her.
Sunday 6 November 2005: Mother Courage and her Children at UW (Playhouse)
Here is Bertolt Brecht (as adapted by David Hare) railing against war and war profiteers. Sound timely? UW faculty member Robyn Hunt plays Mother Courage, a peddler traveling with her grown kids across north central Europe during the Thirty Years' War. Interesting anachronisms of costumes and props abound, but do not distract from the presentation. One third of the cast (which totals fifteen) are second-year PATP members; the others (except for Hunt and one alumnus) are UW undergrads, mostly from the drama program. Steve Pearson directed. Checkmarks to Hunt and Macah Coates, and to Czerton Lim for set design; honorable mention to Alex Fox. Seven of the cast also rotate through the on-stage band.
Sunday 6 November 2005: Sweeney Todd at the 5th Ave Musical Theatre Company
Misha Berson's preview for this show noted that it would be a full-up presentation, with pit orchestra and full sets (which came from the New York City Opera). I had already seen two productions in the past two years, and was not planning to go to this one, but she talked me into it. Good. The cast is a mix of local and imported actors, all of whom do fine to very fine work. Checkmarks to David Armstrong (direction); Allen Fitzpatrick (Todd); Carol Swarbrick (Mrs Lovett); Leslie Law (Beggar Woman); and Benjamin Schrader (Tobias Ragg). Honorable mentions to Ivan Hernandez (Anthony Hope) and Julian Patrick (Judge Turpin). There are four more principals and nearly twenty ensemble members. Ian Eisendrath conducts an orchestra of twenty-one chairs.